Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Learning from A Pro

At the end of last week, I was back in college for a group presentation. We all had to give a mini presentation to show where we were with our work. It was good to see what others were doing, and how far they are with their projects. I really want to step the pace up a gear though. I've done a lot of research and had a couple of shoots, but I think it's time to have more shoots going on.

My projects are:
Three still life studio based projects: catalogue/product type shot, set building, and some sort of fine art project;
Architecture using a large format camera (although this scares me, a lot);
Day-in-the-life documentary series;
Personal/ fine art project involving telling a story;
Sports editorial shoot on location;
Charity editorial shoot on location;
Mental health advertising on location;
Corporate awareness advertising on location.

I should point out for the studio and location shots I chose the subject matter but the editorial/ advertising/ location/ studio aspects were assigned.

So. I've got models lined up to start working immediately, with a couple of shoots lined up for next week after I return from being down south, and hopefully running fairly regularly through the remainder of March.

In other news, I managed to get some more assisting work on Monday. It was a series of publicity shots for a large well-known organisation in Glasgow, and great to see a pro-photographer at work. While I was working with him, there were a few things that stuck in my mind. Firstly, how simple the set ups were. At college there's a lot of push towards using as many lights and techniques as possible. He used two at most, either two studio lights -one for the background and one for the subject- or one for the subject and natural daylight. I realised that at quite a few shoots I've attended the photographers seem to prefer to keep lighting simple with no more than one or two lights at most. I suppose a lot of it is down to preference, but also thinking about the purpose of the photograph. I suppose these shots are more the bread-and-butter pictures, the ones you have to get right to earn your income, but it seems to fly in the face of some suggestions of using nine or more lights for a shoot. Perhaps if you're doing a really intricate set, or fashion or art shoot, then yes, nine or more lights is fine. Perhaps if you have time and money and inclination then it's ok too. But I suspect there's something against over-complicating a shoot, making your clients wait while you set up (plus the testing time required when both the clock and the meter are ticking) and lugging nine or more lights (and stands and attachments) with you to a shoot. 

The second thing, was how much I enjoy doing anything in this line of work.  It's not just about watching what happens, but listening too. Listening to how a pro photographer talks to his subject, how they deal with clients and talk to them, the tone, the vocabulary they choose (part of that last bit might be because I was a language student in a former life and tone and words are still embedded in my brain). That's the stuff college can't teach me and the stuff that frankly, probably counts for about 35% of whether you get a second job with that client. (The other proportions being - at a guess: how organised you are in terms of contacting them and arranging a shoot; how good the photos are at the end of it all).

Thirdly, I realised that I really love doing things in photography. It doesn't matter what my role is, as long as I'm there. I thought about all those temp jobs I've done in the past during summer holidays from university, when I was a receptionist or admin assistant or data entry enterer-person. I can safely say there was not a single day I came back from work on a buzz like I get from coming back from a photoshoot. When its me behind the camera, I realise I can work almost as long as required, I get such a kick from it that I don't have any concept of time passing and I don't notice if I am actually feeling tired, which is great unless I'm driving afterwards. Photography is a bit like a can of Red Bull for me.

What I enjoyed most, was just being at work with it all, and knowing that if I enjoy it this much then I must be in the right career. It is a tough career path, perhaps moreso than many others, simply for the abundance of photographers at every level competing for work. Sometimes that thought is hard to consider and quite depressing. But then I think of the things I have achieved so far, and remind myself that all the things that have been hard have always been worthwhile in the end. There are many things that I'm going to need to make it in the industry and make a living out of photography, and realising that my work ethic is one of my strengths allows me to focus my attentions on any deficits or weaknesses.

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